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New York Fashion Week: NYC’s local designers to know

While Kanye West and celebrity models attract the lion's share of New York Fashion Week’s limelight, dozens of up-and-coming local designers strive for their shot at recognition.

Here, we profile six young brands; though not quite yet household names, they are bright spots on the local scene and speak to the inspiration they take from manufacturing here in NYC, America’s fashion capital.

Scroll down to learn more about these NYC-based brands.

Romeo Hunte

Brooklyn born and bred, Romeo Hunte cites his
Photo Credit: Romeo Hunte

Brooklyn born and bred, Romeo Hunte cites his mother as one of his first inspirations in design, beginning when he was just 13 years old.

"She was into fashion and always wanting to have her own look," Hunte said. "She was definitely a trendsetter. She was very risky, rebellious and confident on anything she wears and still is."

That rebellious, confident woman can be seen in Hunte's collection, which this season gives a nod to the '70s aesthetic while blending gender lines modern silhouettes that imbue a combination of power, sexiness and ease. "I designed in a way for every type of woman regardless of race, color or gender and even shapes," Hunte, an F.I.T. grad, said. "I would love to see everyone in Romeo Hunte that appreciates intricate details and wants something a little different."

A local manufacturer, Hunte's favorite aspect of creating in his beloved hometown: "I get the opportunity to see all of my garments made from start to finish and build stronger relationships."

And when Queen Bey's on board (Beyoncé was spotted last summer in one of Hunte's designs), you know this is brand on the fast track to stardom.


Dan Moskovenko and Khristine Catacutan like to emphasize
Photo Credit: Moskov via Facebook

Dan Moskovenko and Khristine Catacutan like to emphasize the "show" in fashion show. The duo behind Moskov turned their last presentation into a "live art" event. "Three models wore plain canvas dresses designed by Moskov that were painted on during the course of the presentation," Moskovenko and Catacutan explained. And while keeping their cards close to their vests, their promise is that this season's show, taking place Tuesday afternoon, will be their most ambitious yet.

Based in Williamsburg, the pair says as a budding brand (Moskov launched in 2014), "We love that our home base is full of startups and other creative industries," adding their inspiration is drawn "from the abundant street art and the unique fashion sense in the neighborhood." Successful women are another influence. "Their drive and determination motivates us to produce unique and aspirational garments for them," they said. Expect nature themes in Moskov's new collection too. "Folk tales of spirits and woodland creatures" were on the designers' minds while creating the collection.

Proud of the brand's local garment production, the designers said, "We believe that true luxury comes from the peace of mind in knowing that your clothes not only look beautiful but were produced in an ethical and responsible manner."


Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk played around with
Photo Credit: Charlotte Wales

Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk played around with the idea of starting a brand together while studying at the Parsons School of Design. Fast forward five years and AREA put on its second NYFW presentation last Thursday, following its debut last September.

"Our new collection explores concepts of femininity," the duo said. "Whether it is hardcore, fem, drag, or traditional, [it's] all about aspiration."

AREA is headquartered at the intersection of Canal and Lafayette streets, the crossroads of Chinatown and SoHo, and Fogg and Panszczyk love the energy of the area. "It's a very interesting mix of high, low and fake," they said.

Self-confessed textile nerds, the pair touted the advantages of producing locally: "Especially as a young designer, it's important to keep an eye on your product as long as possible. We do so much textile development that we have to keep the product very close to ensure everything happens properly."

M. Martin

While the fashionistas who pose outside of Moynihan
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mireya Acierto

While the fashionistas who pose outside of Moynihan Station may be inspired by what's on the other side of its walls, for Alex Gilbert and Jennifer Noyes, the designers behind M. Martin, it's the women on New York City streets that spurred their Fall 2016 collection.

"All we have to do is step outside our building and there are so many examples of interesting characters and women to inspire our mood," said Gilbert of the company's home base in SoHo. M. Martin incorporates "vintage street style photography and the offbeat colors of retro flicks through a modern lens" in what Gilbert described as a "celebration of idiosyncratic minimalism."

No strangers to the fashion world, Gilbert is the founder of cult jeans brand Paper Denim & Cloth, while Noyes counts director of Prada's womenswear among her credits.

M. Martin is a blossoming brand and made its sophomore New York Fashion Week presentation last Thursday. "Manufacturing in NYC was one of the musts that we discussed when first concepting our launch of M. Martin," Gilbert said. "Quality and attention to detail are two essential elements of a luxury brand, and we knew that working with specialized factories in NYC would give us the proximity to our production process as well as the workmanship we desired."

Max Gengos

Max Gengos is a proud supporter of
Photo Credit: Max Gengos

Max Gengos is a proud supporter of "slow" fashion -- what the designer calls "expertly tailored clothes that are made to last. I watch my fabric consumption very closely to ensure minimal waste on the cutting floor."

Dubbing his brand "responsible luxury," the F.I.T. and Parsons alum, 25, sources fabric from the best mills in Italy and France, which is then brought back to NYC and manufactured in a small, closely-controlled atelier. Gengos says this "ensures that I can create the highest-quality product possible without compromising material and production."

Debuting at Fashion Week last September gave Gengos added industry exposure, after reaching audiences through publications like Teen Vogue -- none other than Kylie Jenner sported his designs in its May issue.

For his next collection (which Gengos will be showing privately), Gengos is taking his "slow" movement one step further. "I made the decision to dive into artisanal and completely custom-designed fabrics," Gengos said. "Expect a lot of ultra-luxe, artful surfaces on my garments. I think it's going to make for a fun play with my more traditionally minimal, modern and sleek sensibility." He added that his next collection will be "much more suited to someone who is looking for 'occasion' dressing; and with my new material vocabulary, I now have the chance to grow my made-to-measure business and give clients truly unique, one-of-a-kind pieces."


Originally from Singapore, Brooklyn transplant Danica Zheng impressively
Photo Credit: Hiu Zhi Wei

Originally from Singapore, Brooklyn transplant Danica Zheng impressively debuted Pamplemousse in September last year -- the same year the label was founded.

Though the 25-year-old loved the increase in brand visibility New York Fashion Week offered, along with the "magical" moment of seeing months of hard work come together on the runway, Zheng has made a decision to show her collection by appointment only this season. "Consumers today want things as they see, therefore it made sense to only show the pieces once they become available for purchase so that consumers can buy things they love immediately," Zheng told amNewYork, echoing words heard more and more frequently in an industry staring in the face of transition with increasing "see now, buy now" collections on offer.

Zheng is whimsical when describing her new collection -- "Think luscious volume, China princess meets underwater mystical creature" -- and cites Chinese artist Lu Jian Jun's portrait paintings as inspiration for work which is manufactured entirely in Manhattan's Garment District. "The accessibility [of manufacturing locally] makes it possible for immediate monitoring for quality control," Zheng said. "It's also an extremely transparent process, so I can make sure that every piece is produced within a sustainable and socially responsible environment."


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